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Beef Prices Rising as Farmers Deal with Demand, Drought

Ciaran Griffin/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s that time of year when Americans start firing up the grill, but the sound of sizzling beef burgers seems to be fizzling, thanks to a rise in the cost of beef.

A ground beef burger now costs $3.26 per pound, up from $2.99 a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And a sirloin steak now costs $6.86 per pound, up 7 percent from last summer.

“I’m buying less beef because prices … seem to be going up,” Meltin Escoboza told ABC News today.

Experts say the growing demand for U.S. beef from around the globe, including China, as well as a drought in the Southwest, are pushing up the price of beef.

Last year’s drought — the worst in U.S. history — dried up grazing grasses and sent the costs of corn and soybeans, both used in cattle feed, soaring. The current drought in the Southwest continues to wipe out the feed and makes it very expensive to raise cattle.

In response, ranchers slashed the size of their herds. The U.S. now has the smallest number of cattle since 1952.

Wally Weaver, a chef at the 3 Forty Grill in Hoboken, N.J., advised families to go for smaller portion sizes, rather than a lower quality beef, as well as bigger sides — a restaurant trick.

“That way you save a little money and you still get what you want to eat,” Weaver said. “We have awesome sides that we serve with the steaks and the other dishes. You don’t really notice.”

He also suggested using a portobello mushroom rather than meat because they are meaty and can be added as a side or stand in for a burger. Weaver said that if cheaper cuts such as flank and skirt steaks are used, they should be marinated for 24 hours in a vinegar-based liquid.

Lynn R. Russo-Talbot of Washington state said that turkey would be the new T-bone steak of the summer for her family.

And Kathy Robertson of Martinsville, Va., said that she mixed black beans and bread crumbs with her ground beef to stretch it longer.

Agriculture traders told ABC News Saturday that higher beef prices would remain high because, as ranchers increased the size of their herds, demand continues to grow, canceling out the extra supply.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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